Blockbuster Season Review Talking Movies

Blockbuster Season Review

In a special edition, Talking Movies reports on Hollywood's summer blockbuster season, looking at films such as Wonder Woman which may have changed the movie landscape forever.

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Hello, and welcome to Talking Movies. I am Tom Brook. In today's


programme, as people here in New York gathered to watch a movie


outdoors, we report on America's blockbuster season, as the finish


line approaches. What were the successes? Wonder woman, Guardians


of the Galaxy volume two, and Spider-Man homecoming must count


among them, but with so many uninspiring sequels there was a lot


of franchise fatigue. It seems like lately that is the only thing that


is coming out, and I want to see more creative content. And among the


summer movies inspired by real events, Detroit, a report on the


debate it revived over who was really qualified to tell black


stories. Directors from other races don't know how to properly showcase


like men and women living full lives. Then this summer's sleeper


hits at the American box office. We look at one film that really broke


new ground. As well as the sleeper hits of yesteryear. All that and


more in this special blockbuster season review edition of talking


movies. The big story at the American box office this summer was


wonder woman, the first superhero blockbuster to be directed by a


woman and make more money than any other summer film. Before we delve


deeper into the picture, let's cast our minds back to Wonder Woman, with


this review from BBC culture film critic Karen James. She is an


anti-war feminist. She deflects bullets with her bracelets. She has


a sword tucked into the back of her evening down. All that, and she is


the superheroine of a thoroughly entertaining action movie. She is a


princess named Diana, raised on an island off Amazon Warriors. When a


plane crash as she reinvents the Princess Meth, rescuing her Prince


Charming, an American intelligence officer played by Chris Pyne. Gal


Gadot is terrific as Diana, charismatic and fierce. She and Pine


bring a lot of deadpan wit to their romance. But what really sets this


Wonder Woman apart from other superheroes is the sense of idealism


and wonder Gal Gadot brings to the role. Whether her action sequences


are set in the trenches of World War I or a bomb factory, they are crisp


and lucid, dynamic, such a relief from the dark model of so many


superhero movies. Why has Wonder Woman been such a big success, and


will it leave a lasting impact on the movie landscape? To find out I


sought the opinion of buzz feed film news critic Alison Willmore. Well,


it was the first hugely successful female superhero movie. They have


been ones in the past, attempts like Catwoman and Electra. But this was


the first one to be an unqualified financial success. It has been


proof, if proof is required, that a female lead superhero movie can have


mass appeal. Many women reported having quite an emotional response


when they watched Wonder Woman. What did the film give them that perhaps


other films had not given them? I think that what wonder woman has


given audiences, particularly female audiences, is this representation of


themselves on screen. To be able to see this character kind of step onto


a battlefield in the best seen in the movie, and commit herself to


this act of kind of unqualified heroism. And there is something that


is very moving about seeing a female character be put in the spotlight


like that, in a genre that we have gotten very familiar with. So I


think that there is certainly this feeling of a boundary being crossed.


How instrumental was Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, to its


success? One of the things that is really refreshing about this movie


is not just that it is so grounded in a female character and female


experience, but that it looks at her without having to kind of, like,


filter her through a Mail perspective, or filter her through


the experiences of her love interest, played by Chris Pyne. So I


think that that is something that you really sense with having a


female director behind the camera. How can a woman fight in this? Many


Hollywood executives used to say that men would not go to a superhero


movie if there was a female protagonists. But they have been


proved wrong with Wonder Woman, haven't they? You always see that


female lead movies and movies with actors of colour, there is this


burden on them, that they have to prove every time that these


properties are viable, that they are not niche. There is a lot of


pressure put on movies like this, that you are proof of a basic


concept, not just the film succeeding in its own right. So I


was really excited to see the success of Wonder Woman, and I am


really interested to see where that leads, but I always think about


something like Writes mates, which was a film which was supposed to


usher in a new era of female lead superhero films, and it didn't


really. Hollywood has been taught many lessons before about this, and


it never seems to stick. What will be the lasting impact of Wonder


Woman? There is going to be a sequel, but will it increase


opportunities for women in the film business across the board, do you


think I think that Wonder Woman is a big lesson. I just hope it is one


that studios take, both in terms of its director and in terms of its


main character. I think that just continued pressure from fans to say


that this is important to them, as important as seeing as female


superhero in front of the camera, I think that is what would make sure


that that continues to happen. This summer at the box office there were


several films inspired by real events, and director Christopher


Nolan's Dunkirk and Al Gore's documentary on climate change. Then


there was Detroit, a film based on the 1967 Detroit riots, directed by


Catherine Bigelow. It sparked a fair bit of debate which is still


ongoing. In Detroit, a city at war, violence continues. What is a black


film? Is it possible for white filmmakers in Hollywood to


adequately tell stories from a black respective? The film Detroit, set in


Detroit, Michigan, and directed by a Kathryn Bigelow, has reignited this


debate. The film depicts the Algiers motel incident where the cops during


the riot thought there was a sniper in the motel, and they went and


lined a bunch of people up against the wall, and kept them there for


hours, and terrorise them. And by the time the incident was over,


three African-Americans were dead. I got all night, people. The


centrepiece of the movie is the 45 minute long motel sequence. Some


have said that this is the most powerful part of the film, as it


gives a window into the nature of police brutality, which is still


present to this day. Others have said it is a nearly pornographic


lynching sequence, and has little value. Let's not be stupid in this


situation. The film was put together by a white director, Kathryn


Bigelow, and a white writer, Mark Boal. So it didn't feature any black


creators on the production team. I think the issue of who made this


film and whether it should have been black filmmakers is on the one hand


an important one to discuss, and to the extent that we need more


talented people who are African-Americans behind the camera.


On the other hand, it is a very dicey issue, and I think a very


slippery slope, when you have some people saying that a film of this


subject should not be made by white filmmakers. It seems like freedom of


expression means, to me, that people should be able to make works of art


about people of different races. It is a war zone out there. While there


has been a backlash about the race of the creative team behind Detroit,


white American film makers producing what may be considered black films


is not uncommon. One of the most notable examples is Steven


Spielberg's 1985 film the Colour Purple, adapted from Alice Walker's


novel, and is accepted as a black film. However, there are those who


upset that white filmmakers seem fixated on the oppression and


struggle of black people. I think sometimes directors from other races


don't know how to properly showcase black men and women living full


lives, outside of the racism and trauma that we endure. Can a white


director properly do that correctly? I don't doubt it. But it seems as if


Hollywood only knows us for a few things, and trauma and endurance is


one of them. Kathryn Bigelow and Anthony Mackie, who appears in the


film, both agree that the goal of the project was to start a


conversation. This film is a lot of black tragedy, and I don't know if


African-Americans, people of colour, need to see any more tragedy in


order for us to have a conversation about the very undeniable, systemic


racism that has built this country. Although Detroit has not performed


as well as expect that the box office this summer, it did cause


controversy about representation in film. There is no guarantee that the


movie would have been more successful if they were black


filmmakers behind the camera, but one could speculate that much more


of a conversation about the film would be focused on the quality of


the filmmaking, and the message it attempts to convey. Now, let's move


on to some of the other summer films. One sad reality is just how


bad they were. The fact reflect that in seasonal box office revenues,


which were several percentage points down on last year. The big problem,


Fran fatigue. More and more sequels underperforming. For we investigate


franchise fatigue further, let's look at one franchise sequel which


it is generally agreed worked well. Spider-Man Homecoming. The people


behind Spider-Man Homecoming have remembered something that makers of


almost every other recent superhero film have forgotten, that if you are


going to tell a story about someone in a colourful costume who can throw


bad guys around like they are frisbees, then it should probably be


fun for all the family. So never mind all the mass destruction and


cosmic Doomsday Device is that we usually get. This is a warm, fast


paced, coming-of-age comedy about a group of teenagers, one of whom


happens to have been bitten by radioactive arachnid. Spider-Man has


to struggle with the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, who clears up all


the debris after the avengers' city wrecking battles. He built himself a


gigantic and surprisingly sinister set of robotic wings and goes into


the super villain business. The fact he is a savage killer but also an


ordinary, downtrodden working man, makes him one of the best baddies in


the Marvel rogues gallery. The only problem is that there is too much in


a two and a quarter hour film. It has too many characters and too many


action set pieces, none of which is as spectacular in the equivalent Sam


Remy films. Like its eager young protagonists, Spider-Man: Homecoming


tries a bit too hard and it sometimes stumbles. Well, what did


Spider-Man get right that enabled it to satisfy audiences, while other


franchise films fell short as Mac to investigate franchise fatigue, we


put together our own panel. Spiderman: Homecoming plays well


because it almost plays like a John Hughes comedy. Tom is almost of high


school age, so we really can capture teenage Peter Piper. Others were


pushing in their 30s and couldn't quite capture the same thing. It is


a wonderfully diverse cast and there are even some political points to


it. The actor who plays MJ has this wonderful moment when they are on a


school trip to Washington, DC and about to visit Washington monument


and she says, I don't want to go there because it was built by


slaves. It's like, this is a movie by Disney. They didn't have to put


that line in there. I think it's important to point out that while


Spiderman: Homecoming has done well, it's also as of now considered the


lowest grossing Spiderman movie out of all of them. So even though that


movie was a hit, there's still franchise fatigue. But the thing


that's drawing people into movies that are doing well, like Wonder


Woman, Spider Man, I think the Washington monument thing was a bit


too easy. At the same time, seeing these movies that tend to appeal


even more to people who are typically underrepresented, all of


that is contributing. I think you are right. With The Mummy, this


isn't a franchise yet but all of the press has been that they are


starting a franchise and you can fill the audience being like, gosh,


another one? It's going to be just drawing from Unviersal's classic


horror movie characters - Frankenstein, Dracula, doctor Jack


all. I don't think anyone is asking for that. It was one of the original


franchises. That was the thing back in the 20s, 30s and 40s. But, yeah,


we already saw the Brendan Fraser versions. I wonder if The Rock was


in this one it might have been better. I think we all agree


franchise fatigue is a problem. I went to the local cinema and asked


some people what they thought. What do you think about the fact that


there are so many franchises and C calls at the moment? I think it's a


little bit lazy. It seems like lately that's the only thing coming


out and I want to see more creative content. Things like Girls Trip. If


you are in charge of Hollywood what change would you make to make block


asked is better? Make it so that women feel more interactive and


maybe racial diversity within a block afters. That might widen the


SPAM. You think people have franchise fatigue? I think


mainstream America does not, but those who actually appreciate cinema


and what the movies are all used to be, definitively yes. Has there been


any blockbuster this is that has delivered for you? No. There just


isn't really a lot of enthusiasm there. That's the thing. Even with


us talking about Spider-Man: Homecoming, we all said we liked it


but none of us would say we loved it. Going into this year, I was


really getting tired of the Marvel cinematic universe. I think maybe


some of these block asked is art to male centric. If you look at the top


grossing films of the year, Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, but not


many in this season. Hollywood is also very slow on the up take. They


did an ounce Wonder Woman sequel, so we will see about that. I think A


Wrinkle in Time will be a big deal. We have big actors. Oprah, and


others that black women will support. Do you think Hollywood will


change course or are we going to see Transformers movies until the end of


time? I don't think anything in Hollywood is ever truly dead. We are


in a circle now where it might take five years or a decade. I think with


Spider Man it only took three years. So long as they are familiar


properties and familiar to a modern audience, we are still going to get


these. I love that basically you are saying that the plot of The Mummy is


a metaphor for Hollywood. No matter how did it may seem, anything can


come back to life at some point. Hollywood loves familiarity, no


question about it. America in summertime almost always have a hit


and this year the one that can claim that title is The Big Sick. It is


the first romantic comedy to have a Muslim man as a leading man. It


breaks new ground. I think dating this girl. She is white. It is based


on a true Romance of the Pakistani actor and writer and comedian and


follows his courtship with his future wife, his parents' efforts to


force him into an arranged marriage with other women and his wife to


be's grave illness. It is cowritten by him and his real-life wife. It is


a blend of cross-cultural interaction. I've always wanted to


have a conversation with... You've never spoken to people about 9-11?


He is like the lead in any other romantic comedy, that it aims to


destigmatise Muslim Americans in the eyes of the public. That would be


ideal and great records Muslims need to be immortalised. I feel like


we've taken a bunch of steps back. So that would be a great, happy


side-effect of our movie. After years of negative media portrayals


of Muslims in cinema, there seems to be an evolution in the presentation.


The on-screen image of Muslims in entertainment is changing. This film


is playing a role. What has been lacking is nuance. Only one time of


Muslim is represented in the media. For a long time it was only one


type. The terrorist, the bad guy. The Big Sick represents the nuance


that already existing the country and by seeing that on the big screen


it's going to have a tremendous effect on the way we view ourselves


as a nation. I screwed up with your daughter. Yeah, you did. The Big


Sick is one of this summer's sleeper hits, but what about years past?


We've been looking back at some of the sleeper surprises that have


emerged over the decades. The summer block us to roll out


every year is pretty standard. Audiences are bombarded with


promotional trailers, teachers and merchandise to promote the budget


larger-than-life movies, specifically reserved for a


summertime release. But not for this type of movie. Sleeper hit is a


movie that opens quietly. It doesn't come in with a lot of publicity,


with a lot of buzz. It often doesn't have huge stars in it. And it gained


its popularity slowly, but steadily, and it just grows and grows and


stays in theatres for a long time. Sometimes it's a very little movie,


like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which a lot of people remember. Everyone


loved it and it stayed for a long time. But there are movies that


people just loved and went to see and continued to go and see and over


a period of time built up this myth about them. Are there any


similarities between movies that become sleeper hits? One thing that


always helps sleeper hits is if it serves an audience that's really not


being served by most of the movies out there. Mamma Mia had money


behind it. That was a Broadway musical. But they opened its


opposite The Dark Knight and people thought, this movie is going to get


killed. But it was just that all of the people who didn't want to see


The Dark Knight and wanted to see a movie about all the women who wanted


to see a musical, something comical, it really appealed to them. And over


the years, some of the sleeper hits have really appeal to audiences and


stayed in our hearts. Some critics think that the most successful


sleeper hits just have heart. It feels like it's one person's story,


one person's vision, whether that's the director or writer. You can feel


their personality in The Sixth Sense, the author's personality on


the screen in The Big Sick. Fast Times had a real persona, a human


touch. Even when these movies tend to be more slick and professional,


you feel something come through on the screen, sought from behind the


screen. Through the screen to you. Well, that's it. If you enjoy those


short reviews from BBC Culture earlier in the programme, you can


find more on the BBC website. There are reviews of The Dark Tower and


Detroit. From me and the rest of the Talking Movies production team,


goodbye. We leave you with a music sequence from Baby Driver, and other


superhit that emerged during blockbuster season. -- another.


We're looking ahead to the weekend weather prospects.


Let's delve into the weather menu and see what's on offer.


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